Lust going in for the kill in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
(Aniplex)

8 Iconic Female Anime Villains (Who You Kind of Wish You Could Be)

They make it hurt so good.

It’s officially the Villain Era. Welcome aboard. Perhaps you are searching for inspiration as to what kind of villain you want to be. A lovable n’er-do-well? A coldhearted badass in a tight dress? A grandmother who uses her progeny as her own personal army? As you’re searching for your new brand, there’s one place you can reliably get excellent inspiration: anime.

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Before we dive in here, you might notice a very big absence on this list: absolutely anyone from Attack on Titan. That’s because, where the series stands now with two of three parts of its final season released (don’t worry about it), it’s made the traditional idea of a “villain” meaningless. Is Annie more of a villain than Gabi, the latter of whom killed one of my favorite characters? And even given that, can you honestly say you still consider Gabi a through-and-through villain? You can’t, can you? I rest my case.

Jessie (Pokémon)

Team Rocket

Perhaps you were expecting me to go entirely “high-shelf” anime here. First of all: how dare you not consider Pokémon high-shelf anime (okay, the 4Kids version…you have a point). Second of all: you love Jessie, and you know it. How can I not put the most iconic anime villain from my childhood on this list? She’s hot-headed, vain as hell, and stays strong even though she’s constantly thwarted. But she always rallies—and finds someone to yell at. An icon. A hero.

Esdeath (Akame Ga Kill)

Esdeath about to kill a lot of people in Akame Ga Kill

I’ll be straight with you: I have yet to watch Akame Ga Kill (I’m sorry, I’m only one human, and there are so many shows). But, as I was hunting for inspiration for this piece, Esdeath repeatedly came up as a fan-favorite, so I wanted to honor that. Besides, any woman who has been promoted to the top of an imperial army earns my respect. As does any woman who is a formidable force in battlefield while retaining a compassion for her soldiers.

Neferpitou (Hunter x Hunter)

Neferpitou being terrifying in Hunter x Hunter

To watch the Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter is to constantly miss your boy Kurapika…I mean, to watch the Chimera Ant arc is to end up in a puddle of tears…I mean, it’s to be infuriated that three seconds have elapsed during an entire episode…I mean, it’s to begin liking Neferpitou only to be constantly reminded that she’s unceasingly brutal and terrifying. Yeah, that’s the one.

That back-and-forth is precisely what makes Neferpitou such an intriguing character. She’s incredibly cruel, and yet, there’s a cat-like streak of playfulness and curiosity. Combined with her intense loyalty and even capacity for devotion, she’s a fascinating villain to behold during a highly turbulent arc.

Isabella (The Promised Neverland)

Isabella from The Promised Neverland

Season one of The Promised Neverland is spectacular. Season two is fine—until the last ten minutes of the final episode, which is quite possibly the hottest mess I’ve ever seen thrust upon my eyes on television. This is not Isabella’s fault, but it does make it hurt a little bit for me to put her on this list. So we’re going to pretend season two of The Promised Neverland doesn’t exist. Okay? Great, okay.

Throughout the (ahem) only season of The Promised Neverland, Isabella is largely responsible for giving the story its shocking depth of uneasiness. The betrayal of the mother figure is devastating, especially for a group of children. For a beloved caretaker to actually be a ruthless actor orchestrating her children’s slaughter is a rough duality. She’s always standing assuredly in the shadows, armed with cunning and knowledge of the world that alludes everyone else. All of which makes her terrifying.

Nonon Jakuzure (Kill la Kill)

Nonon Jakuzure about to transform in Kill La Kill

As a former high school band geek myself, how could the cheerful fighter who so stylishly utilizes the marching band in her grandiose entrance to the arena not be one of my favorite villains? Music-based battles give me a lot of joy, so a magical girl-type transformation into a giant heart that attacks people (with bladed music notes and abrasive bass) is just perfect. And her choice of Classic Marches Which We Totally Played in High School Or Else Know From Cartoons (Light Calvary Overture? pshaw!) is impeccable. Who knew that the kawaii aesthetic and marching bands and good ol’-fashioned violence worked so well together?

Himiko Toga (My Hero Academia)

Toga Himiko

Himiko here is another excellent spin on the kawaii girl. She displays all the cheerful and cutesy trappings of a teenage girl who fancies herself in such a light. She also just so happens to really love killing and torturing people. Including—especially?— people she’s infatuated with. Which, you know, maybe leans in a bit into the uncomfortable “crazy lovelorn lady” archetype. But she’s an intriguing enough character that I give her a pass on that one. I mean, hell, her quirk involves her having to ingest her victim’s blood. That’s some next-level sh*t.

Lust (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

Lust fighting in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

Lust was my OG female anime villain. She’s the first one I thought of when given this prompt. For better or for worse, she embodies a quintessential archetype for a female anime antagonist: very sexy, very deadly, very terrifying. Her cool demeanor, coupled with their horrifying extendable claws, make her a memorable and formidable foe. Yes, you can literally be the embodiment of lust, but you can also instantly kill people by shooting finger-spears through their bodies. That’s a strong-as-hell vibe, and I love it.

Big Mom (One Piece)

Big Mom singing a musical number in One Piece

I have previously been accused of “Big Mom erasure,” so I am attempting to right that wrong. Also, while looking for inspiration for this piece, absolutely none of the other “female anime villain” lists contained Big Mom, which is a freaking crime. “Big Mom erasure,” indeed!

Big Mom is one of the Four Emperors in the New World, which automatically makes her one of the strongest characters in One Piece. From her insatiable appetite which—ahem—includes subconscious cannibalism, to her Devil Fruit power which allows her to manipulate souls, to the fact that her formidable pirate crew is largely populated by her biological progeny (get it, gurl!), Big Mom is a terrifying force. While her backstory is quite tragic (and also quite grotesque), she’s one of the few One Piece villains who’s straight-up a villain. She’s a selfish asshole. But goddamn, she’s such a joy to despise.

(featured image: Aniplex)


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.